It’s Friday afternoon, the center of Oslo crowded with teenagers who can’t wait to see their big chart pop idols at the massive annual VG Lista festival – the Norwegian version of the Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival. The event features some dubious talent. One of the headliners is a retired soccer player with a major summer hit about “the summer body”. Fingers crossed we’ll experience some singer-songwriter quality in the shape of Nora Konstanse (26) on stage next year.
She shows up wearing a hoodie with the VG-lista logo. “I’ve been working all week with VG-lista. I probably smell like food”, she laughs, gasping for air.
We sit down with our coffees at a table in the middle of the café. As i start my questioning, Nora wrinkles her nose. “Is this a good place? Isn’t the music a little too loud?”. We settle instead at a table further inside the cafe.
“Sorry. It’s hard for me to listen to music if I can’t listen to it actively. It becomes stressful and I’ll have trouble concentrating on what you’re saying”.
Do all musicians feel this way?
“I’m just very interested in the music. It makes passive listening difficult. I listen to a lot of music. Yesterday I went to this amazing concert with the band Haim, and it was siiick! Women like them impress me so much and I was mind-blown. It made me all like, ‘Shit, is this even possible?’”.
Music from a small place
Nora Konstanse was born and raised in northern Norway, in Sandnessjøen, a small town of 6000 residents. Her father always sang her to sleep while playing his guitar. Even though she grew up in a musical home, Nora was never “the musician” amongst her friends.
“Music has always been a part of my life, but people didn’t really think it was a cool thing to do,”she says. “It wasn’t something you were supposed to do, so I played sports and was a really active child”.
Still, at home Nora always joined her father singing along to his guitar. Later she started to play the guitar herself, as well as taking piano lessons. She was 16 when she performed in front of people for the first time. Graduating from high school, music had become her life.
After five years at LIPA – better known as the Paul McCartney School – in 2015, Nora spent the next year still just working on and fine-tuning her music. Then she became fed up.
“Not fed up by the music itself, but fed up by working on it”, she specifies. “It got really lonely. Everything circled around me – my songs, contacting festivals to get to play, getting my band all together to work with me and my music. I missed having something to wake up to – the feeling of someone missing you if you’re not able to go to work. I needed something more in my life, to fill my days and meet new people.”
So she took three jobs in the creative industry, in addition to putting together her debut album, ‘Words left to say’.
“I’ve been ready to make an album for a really long time, but I’ve used so much time handpicking the right producer, as well as planning the whole process of recording.”
Today she’s happy the recording process took her so long.
“The sound on the album would’ve been totally different if I had been able to make it earlier, so I’m very happy that I’ve taken my time and poured all my skills and resources on this album. I’ve grown as a person and have the guts now to stand up for what I believe in. I made the album just the way I wanted it.”
The crying woman
The buzz proceeds Nora Konstanse wherever she goes. While the album is yet to be released, she’s already played a range of stalwart festivals such as the well-known Moldejazz, and has been touring all over Norway. I ask her about the most memorable moment of her music career so far, and she breaks into a broader-than-life smile:
“When I toured Norway, there were so many beautiful places. One time we played in a tiny, tiny town. I think only ten people lived there. But twenty people came to our concert ! A woman in the front row cried and cried throughout the concert. I knew that she felt something special in that moment.”
Two years passed, and Nora Konstanse was contacted by one of the members from the other band that had been playing at the same concert two years ago. It turns out, the band member knew, and received a text message from, the crying woman.
“She explained that she had been thinking about this one song, every single day, week, and month for two years. But she couldn’t find it anywhere, and asked what this song is called. The song was Hjerteslag. I haven’t released it yet, but there’s a video of it on YouTube. I thought ‘Shit, this is incredible! There’s a person who’s been thinking about what I sang!’”
The fan becomes the star
Nora Konstanse seems destined to experience many more memorable moments like this. Her music career has barely started, and she already has a following. With just a single released, Nora has already played four festivals in Norway this summer, including the popular Slottsfjell Festivalen.
“I’ve been volunteering at Slottsfjell two years in a row. Now, however, I won’t be digging mud and setting up fences. This year I will be playing my music.” She laughs, adding, “I’m not saying it’s bad to be working with different aspects of the industry – you get to know so many great people and everyone is so supportive!”
Check out Nora’s single and watch her music video for “Pendulum”:
Remember to keep your eyes and ears open this fall as “Words left to say” will be released!